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Monday, January 30, 2017

01292017 4th Sunday After Epiphany - We are to overcome evil with good!

January 29, 2017
We are to overcome evil with good (v. 21)
Since the beginning of this month of January in the sports world we have cried due to tragic loss of young lives of baseball pitchers, watched as teams on the football field thought to be invincible fell to more dominant powers.  In politics we have watched the regime change from one party to another.  And here in our own church we have made some decisions concerning the windows that until last September had adorned our sanctuary.
Each event or decision, whether on the gridiron, a road in a distant land or even here in our sanctuary, potentially either could be interpreted in the wrong way, or be understood as how ‘bad luck’, ‘evil’ or even disagreement enters into our culture and world, even here in the church.  Some would say, that’s not my problem.  Others would have opinions, but only share them with their ‘friends’.  Yet, Paul, the writer of the letter to the Romans this morning suggests a different path we should take.
Paul is writing this letter to a people that are vastly different than the Jews of Jerusalem.  Those who would read and have read to them this letter to the Romans, do not have the history of the Old Testament.  Thus Paul in this letter speaks plainly, emphatically and exclusively of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We today in our Western Context, both of the United States, but also Kansas and far Northwest Kansas think of the Gospel differently than Paul and the Romans.  We have not lived without the Gospel message.  The Romans were only introduced to it, by Paul.
Ironically, Paul came late to the party as the phrase goes.  His conversion was on the road to Emmaus, when Jesus Christ asked him a simple question, “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?”  You see Saul as he was known then was looked at by the believers of and in Jesus Christ as an evil man.  He not only was persecuting the followers of Jesus Christ, but even was given a license to ‘hunt them down’.  Christians thought Saul was the clear embodiment of evil and didn’t trust him.
Having experienced this mistrust of him from the very beginning, Saul, then named by Paul could not only speak from experience, but reach out to people and like in his own life, ‘overcome evil with good.’  Hence why Paul wrote so prolifically and could clearly point to the clear message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  And in pointing to Jesus Christ, Paul could clearly and emphatically say, “We are to overcome evil with good.
Yet, for we who gather here today, why and how does this apply?  Some in our society would ask, does evil exist today?  Some would clearly claim our nations leaders at times are the embodiment of evil.  We look at our government and believe it has become corrupt and isn’t looking out for the little guy and that big business is muscling out the small family farm.  Events in our world, escalate to the point that we don’t see much good or to find good you have to look closely and carefully, because it isn’t the norm.
Interestingly Paul sailed to a world, the Roman world that not only epitomized this same ‘world view’ and belief of the Jews of ‘evil all around’, but Paul chose a different path.  Paul responded not with a hammer of condemnation, but with the Gospel saying, “We are to overcome evil with good!”  Paul’s intent was to inspire and enable the Roman people not to hold to every letter of the law that Jews expected, but to hold up calmly, point to clearly and elevate the Man he met on the road to Emmaus, Jesus Christ.
Paul’s sole intent was for the people to as we heard last week, exercise their muscles of faith and as we have heard today clearly use as their call to action, “We are to overcome evil with good!”  You might ask, ‘how are we to do this?’  Clearly, specifically and without ending, we are to overcome evil with good, by our Love.

When I go to Wheat Ridge and Good Samaritan to lead the Sunday Worship, as I will do in a few weeks, I am thankful to have an accompanist that not only loves music, loves playing, but especially loves the people.  Most times we are there, one of the phrases, I use is the simple four letter word of ‘love’.  And this has become our language with one another when we lead services.  And we like Paul here at Emmanuel, we not only are loved by God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, Who was willing to go to Calvary and die in order that we might live and have eternal life.  We have been empowered through the Gospel of Jesus Christ to love one another as Christ first loved us.  We are enabled by Jesus Christ to hear and heed Paul’s call to action.  For as Christians and disciples of our Lord and Savior, He, Jesus Christ is calling us through the lips of Paul with this call to action.  “We are to overcome evil with good!”  AMEN.

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Monday, January 23, 2017

01222017 3rd Sunday After Epiphany - We are to exercise our gifts!

January 22, 2017
We are to exercise our gifts!
New Years resolutions by this time of the month of January are for some a distant memory.  Whether of a ‘new lifestyle’, a new way of doing life or even some resolutions to exercise.  But for a few resolute individuals, they still have their goal and resolutions firmly in mind.  Some of the reasons some still hold to their ‘resolutions’ is because they are preparing for a vacation at a beach on a distant shore, others because of the one day most young girls look forward to of their wedding day.
In our Epistle lesson this morning, Paul has a different take not only on resolutions, but especially on exercise.  For Paul it isn’t about lifting weights or reshaping our physical or spiritual bodies.  Paul’s main goal in this passage is the exercise of our gifts.  Not the ones found under the Christmas tree less than a month ago, nor the ones we receive on our birthday.  The gifts Paul is attempting to inspire his readers in Rome to understand and for us today is how we can use the gifts God specifically gives each us, our spiritual gifts.
Those who attend Lutheranism 101 have heard me not only mention and talk about Spiritual Gifts and their importance.  I have even asked class members and especially council members to learn more about their gifts, so we can use our individual gifts for the spread of the Gospel.  And this is exactly what Paul is inspiring the Romans who read his letter to understand.  In essence, everyone has spiritual gifts and Paul wants the people to use their gifts for the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Tuesday night at our Lutheranism 101 class, we spoke about some of the local churches and how some of the churches understand the use of spiritual gifts differently.  Some use fear to motivate, some ask a simple question, ‘are you saved?’ and still others rely more upon grace for motivation.  Paul specifically in writing to the Romans wants everybody to work in their comfort zone.  Just as you would not want a surgeon to be a plumber and vice versa you wouldn’t want a plumber to do brain surgery, Paul has as his sole intent everybody working in our comfort zone with the gifts each of us are given by God.
When we work in our comfort zone, we then not only know our gifts and our abilities, but we can use them to clearly and specifically use them for God’s glory.  This doesn’t change our opinions, but it does change how each of us can be inspired and use our gifts for the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
But why should we use our gifts?  For what purpose would our gifts given to us have any use for the glory of God to be demonstrated or revealed today?  Ironically, God throughout all of human history has inspired men, women and children to have profound affects upon people’s lives, from discoveries like penicillin, DNA or even machinery like the cotton gin or the assembly line.
No better story could be told than when a truck was wedged under a bridge from an accident.  From early in the morning engineers and machinists had been sent out from the main office and struggled with how they could remove the stuck truck from the bridge so the flow of traffic could resume.  Ideas were raised of removing the cargo, which should make the truck easier to move.  It was done, but the truck remained stuck firmly in place.  The engineers and all of the personnel worked throughout the day, trying one idea after another, without moving the truck a single inch.
Towards the end of the day the engineers and personnel finally determined they would have to remove the bolts of the bridge and get a huge crane and lift the bridge in order to extract the clearly stuck truck.  So they began to make plans for where and how they would try the next day.
When from the adjoining yard to the bridge and road, a young boy who had watched throughout the day timidly walked forward and tugged at the sleeve of the head engineer overseeing the trucks removal.  Distraught at being disturbed while trying to solve this problem, the engineer, quickly tried to ‘shoo’ the little boy back to the yard.
With a resolve unseen in a person his age, the boy continued to pull at the man’s sleeve.  Seeing he wouldn’t leave him alone, the engineer nearly yelled at the boy, ‘what do you want?’  Unsure, but quietly, the boy said, “I’ve been watching you try and get the truck unstuck.”  The engineer with no patience for such an interruption said, “Yes, and I bet you have an idea as well”.  The little boy squared his shoulders and said simply.  “Yes I do.  Why don’t you just let some air out of the tires and back the truck out.” 
The engineer could have been ‘blown over’ by a gentle breeze.  The engineer was exercising his intellect, but this boy was exercising his simple desire to help.  And lo and behold, the tires were deflated and the truck easily backed out from under the overpass.

We who gather here today are no different.  As members of the body of Christ we gather to hear God’s Word and what He offers us through His Son Jesus Christ.  Each of us has gifts given to us by God.  And we have the opportunity to use these gifts for God’s glory.  The question becomes, are we going to be like the engineer and use our intellect or our position or the people that we are neighbors and friends with and not listen to everyone’s input, or will we humbly be the little boy?  It is my prayer we ‘dig down deep’ and humbly use the gifts given to each and every one of us with the sole intent of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For this this the core of our beliefs and God clearly and unmistakably wants to not only equip us to use our gifts, but to enable each and every one of us to say no matter the circumstance, the unchristian force of others, but with boldness and love say with Paul, “We are to exercise our gifts!”  AMEN.

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

5 Scriptures That Will Super-Charge Your Bible Engagement

5 Scriptures That Will Super-Charge Your Bible Engagement

January 17, 2017

Perhaps our greatest need in the New Year is to get into God's Word.

This past year, many people have shared their opinions, but now God wants to speak.

Finance, fitness and food goals are important, but no goal is more important than sitting before God with an open Bible and a humble, teachable heart.

This is the posture a Christian is to assume their entire life. Salvation may happen in a single moment of belief, but learning to live as a Christian and fully follow Jesus is the adventure of a lifetime. We continually learn to follow Jesus through His Word, the Bible.

R.A. Torrey, a close associate of D.L. Moody, once said, "Christians who pray for power but neglect the Bible abound in the church. But the power that belongs to God is stored up in the great reservoir of His own Word, the Bible."

D.L. Moody himself had much to say about the Bible, and was always pointing His hearers back to the Word:

"The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation."

"The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible."

"I never saw a fruit-bearing Christian who was not a student of the Bible. If a man neglects his Bible, he may pray and ask God to use him in His work; but God cannot make use of him, for there is not much for the Holy Ghost to work upon."

"So few grow, because so few study."

"What we need as Christians is to be able to feed ourselves. How many there are who sit helpless and listless, with open mouths, hungry for spiritual things, and the minister has to try to feed them, while the Bible is a feast prepared, into which they never venture."

"The more you love the Scriptures, the firmer will be your faith. There is little backsliding when people love the Scriptures."

"Depend upon it, my friends, if you get tired of the Word of God, and it becomes wearisome to you, you are out of communion with Him."

"This is the test as to your being a true child of God—whether you love and feed upon the Word of God."

"When I pray, I talk to God, but when I read the Bible, God is talking to me; and it is really more important that God should speak to me than that I should speak to Him. I believe we should know better how to pray if we knew our Bibles better."

"Bear in mind there is no situation in life for which you cannot find some word of consolation in Scripture."

"A quickening that will last must come through the Word of God. A man stood up in one of our meetings and said he hoped for enough out of the series of meetings to last him all his life. I told him he might as well try to eat enough breakfast at one time to last him his lifetime. That is a mistake that people are making; they are running to religious meetings and they think the meetings are going to do the work. But if these don't bring you into closer contact with the Word of God, the whole impression will be gone in three months."

I don't know about you, but reading D.L. Moody's encouragements to read the Bible are soul-stirring! He gives us a window into what it means to treasure our Bibles.

The Bible has much to say about itself as well. Here are five Scriptures that will super-charge your Bible engagement:


"Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers."

This is one of my all time favorite Scripture passages.

Planting yourself in God's Word is like planting a tree by water. There is an abundance of life-giving nutrients to give strength for a lifetime.

Here's a more modern illustration. A missionary to Africa has said: "Christianity boring? So is the best TV show if the set isn't plugged in. Be plugged into God and you won't be yawning."

We plug into (or put our roots into) God and His purposes for our lives through engagement with the Bible and obedience to what God has spoken. If we don't do these two things (read and obey the Bible), we will always be lacking in our spiritual fervor and vibrance. If we do them, we will be on an adventure of a lifetime, and our spiritual life will be moving in the direction it needs to be going.


"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God."

Maybe you already love your Bible, but you are not giving enough time or consideration to it?

Let the Bible dwell in you richly, not poorly, not half-heartedly, but richly. Build your life on it. Make it your most important daily habit. Stake your future on it.


"Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

Scripture is not fanciful tales, or incorrect history. It is pure, true and trustworthy because it has come to us from our faithful God. Archaeology has consistently proven the accuracy of the Bible, and all doubt cast on these points by secular society fall flat to the honest scholar. There is far more evidence pointing to the accuracy of the Scriptures than we could ever fathom possible.

The Bible is not just nice words from men. It is not simply the oldest and most accurate history book. It is not just the bestselling book of all time, packed with wonderful stories.

The Bible is God's words to us today, and every day. God has spoken, and is now speaking through the Bible. The Bible is wisdom, peace, comfort, correction and direction for your tomorrow. The Bible is the life-blood of the Christian, drawing them ever closer to Christ. The Bible is the greatest Book in all of humanity, and our greatest potential opportunity to know God more.


"But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right."

The Word of God is not just lofty prose. It contains various forms of literature, and tells powerful stories, but it is far more than this. It is useful for you, and your everyday life. It is helpful to show you the way to God, and how to live in light of the reality of God.

There are a thousand insights in the Bible that could help you right now in practical ways in your everyday life, but will never benefit you if you don't open the book. A pastor recently shared: "How many times the wisdom we needed for the day was in the Bible passage we didn't read that morning."

5. DO WHAT IT SAYS (JAMES 1:21-25)

"Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do."

A.W. Tozer said, "We can know the right words yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation."

Scripture gives this warning: Don't be "deceived." Or another translation words it "otherwise you are only fooling yourselves." We need to obey.

Is there an area of your life that doesn't line up with what the Bible says, and you know it? Don't keep looking for another solution when you know what you need to do. Repent, turn from ways you know are wrong, and obey what God has spoken to you through His Word.

This is the real power of the Word of God, when we allow it to transform the way we think, speak, act and live.

Continue in the Word. Don't forget what you've heard. Do it. You will be blessed in ways you cannot begin to imagine.

Matt Brown (@evangelistmatt) is an evangelist, author of Awakening and founder of Think Eternity. He and his wife Michelle are impacting millions of people with the gospel each year through live events and online. They also minister to more than a million followers on social media daily.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

01152017 2nd Sunday After Epiphany - By His Doing We are In Christ Jesus!

January 15, 2017
By His doing we are in Christ Jesus!
As we gather together this morning in the shadow of the Christmas and Epiphany Seasons, we have heard about the gifts given by the Three Wise Men of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.  We have followed the shepherds who were watching their flock by night, but stopped in order to go and see what they had heard from the echoing of the angels who proclaimed the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.  We have gone to the manger to Mary and Joseph who crouched where their child was wrapped in cloths lying in the manger.  We have heard all these things about Jesus Christ, for He was and continues to be the greatest gift given unto mankind.  We have learned that this Child, this gift, our Savior, Jesus Christ came in order to offer mankind eternal life.
Yet, our culture doesn’t understand eternal life.  Our culture looks at the toys and joys we have today, whether of a football game that is won in the last seconds.  An outgoing leader whose legacy will be recorded in history books, the impact on our pocketbooks or in the recesses of our minds.  Or the challenges faced in relationship with political parties, professional sports rivalries or the personal relationships we have with parents, children and even our spouse.  These challenges like noise in a loud room, drown out the truth that was clearly found in the manger of Jesus Christ and His offer of eternal life for all of mankind including each and every one of us.
You see, eternal life is more than the daily challenges and sometimes self-imposed obstacles we face.  The gift of eternal life, offered to and for us through Jesus Christ is a gift clearly and specifically for us.  And, Jesus Christ wants to give the gift of eternal life to each and every one of us.  For Jesus gift to and for us is given, not because of what we do, what we have done, nor any merit on our own, but the gift of eternal life is given by Jesus Christ out of His unending and forgiving love for each and every one of us. 
Paul says, “By His doing”.  In essence by the doing of the Child, Jesus Christ, Who was found in the manger, we who live in the world, we who believe, will be grafted into Jesus Christ.  Hence why our connection with Jesus Christ isn’t just begun with our hearing the Word of God.  Or by the Holy Spirit being active in each of us, but even when we bring our children for Holy Baptism, where the people of God stand and with the parents and family take responsibility for the raising of our children in the faith.  This is where God not only showers us with Water and Word, but enfolds and embraces us in the most intimate embrace and fulfills what Paul says, ‘we are in Christ Jesus’.
So now the reality of this world and our destination radically changes.  Instead of living in fear of what tomorrow may bring.  Instead of allowing the shadow that hangs over of our relationships with our family, friends and even our loved ones that at times overcome us, our reality changes because of the Child in the Manger named Jesus Christ.  The small child found in the manger wrapped in strips of cloth with His coming into the world overcame what binds us and has set us free out of His love for us.  Since “By His doing we are in Christ Jesus” we no longer are bound, but are set free in Jesus Christ, through His great love for each and every one of us, through our faith in what He has done.
One of the best cinema examples of faith was when Harrison Ford in the movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”.  As Indy followed meticulously the diary of his father the final obstacle between him and finding the Holy Grail is an expansive canyon.  Indy can see the entrance, but this canyon and no clear way to get across it seems to exist.  And the instructions read, ‘walk by faith’.  All that Indy sees is the chasm and the entrance to a place that could save his dying father.
Finally after wrestling and struggling with this reality of the chasm he faces, Indy steps out in faith.  And lo and behold there is an invisible bridge to get to the other side and reach his goal of finding the Holy Grail.

We who gather this morning unlike Indiana Jones, have found the real and true Holy Grail that does offer us eternal life, Jesus Christ.  We found and have worshiped Him in the manger and today in Jesus Christ and His Word which we have heard this morning, the sacrament we are about to receive from His altar.  For in this gift of His Precious Body and Blood we find eternal life.  May we believe what we have heard and are about to partake and ultimately come to the full realization of Paul’s words of grace and comfort that we are enfolded into Jesus Christ loving arms when we believe “By His doing we are in Christ Jesus”.  AMEN.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

There is more mercy in Christ

There is more mercy in Christ

There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us. – Richard Sibbes

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

To walk upon the narrow path

To walk upon the narrow path

To walk upon the narrow path of our own repentance, we must first abandon the broad road of always focusing on the sins of others. – Joel Richardson

Monday, January 9, 2017

01082017 Epiphany Observed - We are called to preach the unfathomable riches of Christ!

JANUARY 8, 2017
We are called to preach the unfathomable riches of Christ!
One of the best and most enduring traditions that we have here at Emmanuel is our placing the Nativity out on our South lawn.  We like the Catholics across the street every year show the importance for our community of our celebration of the Nativity of the Savior of the World.  I remember one year the dedication that was shown by one of the men of the church in order to insure the placement of the Nativity he spent 20-30 minutes with the snow blower making a place for our nativity to rest.
So important is our tradition and this ministry that it boils down to a simple reason.  We not only acknowledge the gifts given to give God the greatest glory from our past we do this by pointing to the riches found in Jesus Christ in the manger.  Today as we celebrate Epiphany we point and step to another stepping stone in the celebration of the coming of the Christ Child.  We have heard about Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, the Angels proclaiming the birth of Jesus Christ, the shepherds being inspired to go to see the child wrapped in swaddling cloths and today we come with the three Wise Men who bring gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.  Each gift denoting one of the offices of Jesus Christ as Prophet, Priest and King.
Yet, what is found in these gifts by the Wise Men are not monetary riches or value in the gifts placed at the foot of the manger, but the ‘unfathomable riches’ found in the manger of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  For Jesus Christ is the greatest gift given not only unto Mary and Joseph, but unto the entire world.  Just as we build and yearly rebuild a manger scene, insure it remains erect even in spite of the wind of Western Kansas.  The gift of Jesus Christ found wrapped in swaddling cloths is meant to be shared with our world.
Jesus Christ sole purpose was to come into this world in order to save each and every one of us and take us home to be with Him in His Kingdom.  Jesus Christ offer of life and salvation, eternal life is in order that we might enter into eternal glory and be with Him for all eternity.  Jesus Christ wants His gift for us and the message of salvation that was foretold in sacred story to be told not only by the shepherds, the people in Israel, but by all of us who claim to be Christian.
After the business of this holiday season, Michele, Sarah and I spent our ‘vacation’ close to home.  During this time we introduced Sarah to the “Star Wars” movies, not just the latest, “Rogue One” in the theater, but even the original trilogy, then the prequels and finally the latest episode.  In the first movie that began the series of movies nearly 40 years ago, entitled, “Star Wars: A New Hope” the character, Luke Skywalker, learned that in of himself, trusting in technology he would fail in trying to destroy the Death Star.  But when Luke trusted in the Force he would succeed.
Translating this message for us today, just like the wise men, they knew what the prophecies were, but the treasures they carried, their journey if focused upon themselves would ultimately fail.  But if they trusted in Who they found in the manger, their journey and experience would be successful.  We who gather here today need to apply these lessons both from Star Wars and the Wise Men who followed a star to ourselves.
For Who we find in the manger is none other than the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ.  His riches are endless and the gifts He can give us are limitless.  When we trust and are willing to tell others, or preach and proclaim what we find in the manger, and the gifts He offers all of mankind, our reward, our eternal reward will be beyond our wildest imagination.
You see the message of the wise men and our celebration of Epiphany is not static or for the here and now, but it is forward looking to what is to come.  How out of God’s great love for us our world would be radically changed and out of God’s love manifest in His Son, Jesus Christ, the world would be offered eternal life found in the manger, by the Three Wise Men and we who gather to celebrate today.  The message of Jesus Christ is what we are called to share in season and out of season.  This is the message we are called to bring others to the saving knowledge of the Savior of the world.  This is the true message the Three Wise Men found in the manger of a Savior Who came to offer Himself in order that we might have eternal life.  For Jesus Christ is the ‘richest treasure’ found in the manger.
And we who gather here today not only find the treasure, but we are inspired, dare I say, “We are called to preach the unfathomable riches of Christ!  For in our preaching the ‘riches of Christ’, we not only give nod to the gift found in the manger, but lay claim to the love He showers upon each of us with each and every day of our lives.  May we today during this season of Epiphany be inspired to share this message of the Messiah that was found by the Three Wise Men.  And not only point to, but boldly fulfill our calling to tell others about Jesus Christ, since we are God’s children in, through and by our baptism into the Savior, we find in the manger that we celebrate today with the Three Wise Men.  AMEN.

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